The Paleobiology of Indricotheres
Publication Year: 2013
Written for everyone fascinated by the huge beasts that once roamed the earth, this book introduces the giant hornless rhinoceros, Indricotherium. These massive animals inhabited Asia and Eurasia for more than 14 million years, about 37 to 23 million years ago. They had skulls 6 feet long, stood 22 feet high at the shoulder, and were twice as heavy as the largest elephant ever recorded, tipping the scales at 44,100 pounds. Fortunately, the big brutes were vegetarians. Donald R. Prothero tells their story, from their discovery just a century ago to the latest research on how they lived and died.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Life of the Past
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece, Quote
This book is the culmination of over thirty-five years’ worth of research on fossil rhinoceroses, beginning with my first introduction to the Frick and American Museum collections in 1976. I thank Dr. Earl Manning for introducing me to the fossil rhino collections at the American Museum and Dr. Michael O. Woodburne and the late Drs. Malcolm C. McKenna and Richard H. Tedford for all they have...
In 1922, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City sponsored one of the most ambitious scientific expeditions ever attempted. Led by the legendary explorer Roy Chapman Andrews (1884–1960), the expedition traveled to China and Mongolia with a huge caravan of seventy-five camels (each carrying 180 kg or 400 pounds of gasoline and other supplies), three Dodge touring cars...
2. Giant Hunters
Before we look further into the life of indricotheres, we need to discuss the places where they have been found and the nature of the fossils discovered so far. This naturally leads into a story of the paleontologists who have taken great risks to travel to remote and dangerous places, from central Asia to Mongolia to China to regions of what is now Pakistan (Fig. 2.1). As we saw with Andrews’ account...
3. Lands of the Giants
The first indricothere fossils were found in the Baluchistan (also spelled Balochistan) region of what was then British India (Fig. 2.1) and now part of southern Pakistan. A soldier named Vickary brought back the first specimens in 1846, but they were so fragmentary that no one knew what they were. The geological and paleontological research there started with William Thomas Blanford in 1882–...
4. Rhino Roots
Before we look at the gigantic indricotheres in greater detail, we need to place them in the context of the evolution of the various types of rhinos (both extinct and surviving). Where did indricotheres come from? What were their closest relatives? What features allows us call these huge creatures without horns rhinoceroses?...
5. What's in a Name?
In previous chapters, we have seen that the names of some these fossil rhinos are confusing, controversial, or unsettled. Before we go further, we need to look at how animals and plants are named and what rules must be followed to see why these disputes arise. The science of classifying is known as taxonomy (Greek, “laws of order”); any named grouping of organisms (a species, a genus, etc.) is...
6. Building a Giant
Now that we have thoroughly explored the geology of the regions that produce indricothere fossils and their evolutionary roots within the rhinocerotoids, let us look more closely at the monsters that still hold the record for the largest land mammal that ever lived...
7. Paradise Lost
Fifty-five million years ago (the earliest Eocene Epoch), the planet was in its warmest phase since the “greenhouse of the dinosaurs” during the latter part of the Mesozoic (Prothero, 2009). There were crocodiles in the polar regions, along with a wide variety of mammals (including the earliest rhinocerotoid Hyrachyus). The fossil plants found above the Arctic and Antarctic Circles look nothing like...
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